Natural disasters, travel bans, places in danger: these climate and health crises have had a profound impact on the tourism sector, which used to contribute 10% of the world’s GDP and 9% of the world’s jobs. The market lost approximately 62 million jobs in 2020, and while this scenario improved in 2021, the sector still reported around 44 million fewer jobs globally compared to 2019. So, a lifetime? Is more sedentary becoming the new normal? The answer is probably, but that doesn’t have to be the death knell for the travel industry. It could be his biggest opportunity yet.
New travel formats such as ecotourism, solo travel, e-tourism, micro-adventures, and lifetime travel are emerging to meet increasingly fragmented and personalized needs. Industry players continue to push the boundaries by exploring new relationships with time, space, and purpose. Our collective notion of travel is evolving, providing brands with a powerful opportunity to help shape their unique value and symbolism in society.
New relationships with time: from an hour of escape a day to “traveling forever”
The situation is more nuanced and less binary than before the pandemic and after. But the last two years have revolutionized the way we work and, in doing so, shake up our relationship with time. Teleworking has allowed many people to invest in second homes, insert exercise sessions into their workday and reorganize —physically and psychologically— the distribution of time worked and not worked.
The slash generation is increasingly embracing “bleisure,” a contraction of business and pleasure. The practice was already widespread before the pandemic and has increased since then. Young people are not only using business travel to be tourists, but employees are increasingly providing opportunities to work from anywhere in the world for part of the year as part of their benefits package.
Large hotel chains such as the Hilton group have seen an apparent increase in bleisure among their clientele, and the industry is responding accordingly. Some now provide family activities in hotels with a historically professional clientele, while family-oriented vacation clubs are setting up meeting rooms and video conferencing facilities. The concept of “all inclusive” now takes on a whole new meaning.
At the same time, long-term travel is becoming more of a way of life for some, and that’s what Wander is betting on, with its network of smart homes spread across the globe. Wander members can embrace their inner nomad by combining travel and work year-round for the same price as rent, making wanderlust more accessible and seamless.
By creating more flexible and hybrid travel opportunities, the “extension” of time opens up the possibility for brands, in tourism and beyond, to integrate more frequently and seamlessly into people’s daily lives. But by blurring the lines between work and play, people may risk losing the pleasure of their escapes or falling into the trap of the permanent in-between.
The future challenge for brands is to create extraordinary moments in increasingly fragmented lifestyles while clearly defining the boundaries between work and play.
New spaces: from endangered places to new travel territories
During the pandemic, governments have banned long-haul flights and restricted travel around the world. And it seems unlikely that we will return to the same levels as before anytime soon. So what if the most complicated and distant journeys become the luxury of tomorrow? To defy the decline in mass tourism, brands have created increasingly extravagant options to tempt the world’s elite. From Antarctic honeymoons via Atlas Ocean Voyage to space station stays via RocketBreaks (not to mention “dark tourism,” which offers trips to the world’s most dangerous places), a range of options has opened up. for those with a lot of money.
But in a more responsible society, aware of the contribution of long-distance travel to the climate crisis, how can brands justify their impact on environmentally and socially fragile territories?
The sustainable solution lies in virtual travel through the metaverse. According to Gartner, by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse. In addition to the virtual rides already available in the gaming world, NFTs now provide exclusive options for real-world ride enthusiasts. For example, the Lucky Ape Travel Club NFT Collection offers members insider access to specialized travel experiences in the real world and the metaverse.
We’re only just beginning to scratch the surface of the branding opportunities associated with the arrival of a virtual space, but what’s clear is that the world of tomorrow is closer than you think. Whether it’s immersive tools to prepare your trip, a 100% metaverse trip from your living room to reduce your carbon footprint, or the possibility of discovering places lost in time, technological advances mean that our imaginations only limit the options.
New reasons to travel: from discovery to introspection
Beyond traveling to a specific destination due to the usual tourism tropes, travelers are increasingly booking trips seeking introspection and a sense of well-being or pursuing a particular passion. Some destinations have historical links to sports (golf, sailing, skiing, etc.), but today, the offer is increasingly refined and sophisticated. For example, The Courts gives visitors access to four tennis courts in a luxury clubhouse in the middle of the California desert.
Thierry Teissier, one of the pioneers of exceptional travel, developed the concept of ephemeral travel. His latest creation is the 700’000 Heures hotel, a name that corresponds to the average number of hours of our life on Earth. 700’000 Heures, the world’s first traveling hotel, changes locations every six months to preserve the local landscape while creating a legacy for the local population during each residence. This concept is timely because recent Booking.com research on sustainable travel indicated that one in four people would be willing to pay more for travel activities to ensure they give back to local communities.
To that end, trips that aim to repair the damage caused to the world by global warming are gaining popularity. In March 2022, The Explorer’s Passage enabled experts, journalists and academics to work together to further the debate on global warming during an Antarctic cruise accompanied by polar explorers. Combining activism with pleasure has become an attractive way for engaged citizens to balance the negative impact of travel (financial and environmental) with a more altruistic outcome of a trip.
The pandemic may have grounded the world, but it has also been a catalyst for change as the tourism industry considers the future of travel. The new experiences proposed by travel brands reflect profound societal changes that encompass our relationship with the environment, time, and the value of work and play. The way we travel is not just about how we spend our free time, but increasingly reflects the values of an entire society. Now it’s up to brands around the world to rise to the challenge of a new era and influence the direction of the journey.
This article originally appeared on Crush Magazine